A Dazzling December Downtown

by Shannon McNeney · 4 comments

Calgary might not have a Santa Claus Parade, but it does have a large number fantastic family-friendly holiday events to help get even the Grinchiest hearts into the spirit of the season.

There are a number of things to look forward to this December and many of them are free!  Here are my top 10:

1.) Skating at Olympic Plaza
Growing up in Vancouver’s balmy climate made it hard to experience what seems to be a winter rite of passage for most Canadians – skating on an outdoor rink.  I am very excited to try this for the first time EVER!  And to make it an even more memorable experience, on Dec. 5-9, 12 & 13 there will be choirs singing at Olympic Plaza over the lunch hour.

2.) Window Shopping
Strolling along Stephen Avenue amidst the twinkle of Christmas lights and festively decorated storefronts with a warm drink in hand is one of the nicest things to do in the winter.  There are several companies in downtown Calgary like Holt Renfrew and Twigs & Co that do a fantastic job of decorating their stores.  Many of the hotels also get in the spirit and decorate to the nines.

This gorgeous gingerbread replica of the Fairmont Palliser is currently on display in their lobby.

The CORE Shopping Centre is also home to a spectacular 45-foot Christmas tree, which is said to be the tallest of its kind in Western Canada.  It has over 2,670 ornaments and 45,000 individual lights in total.

If you’re lucky you might even run into our Present Patrol who will be handing out free Visa gift cards to downtown passersby between December 8-18th.

3.) Giving Back to the Community
Christmas is a time to think of others and give with your whole heart.  Since there are many families that do not enjoy the same blessings that we do, my Mom always taught us to be thoughtful of others, especially during the holidays.  There are a number of different charities that help those in need with various things like gift hampers, meals and necessities.

Even if you are unable to make a monetary donation, many organizations are always looking for volunteers to help with various tasks.  For example, Bankers Hall is currently looking for volunteer holiday gift-wrappers during the month of December. Proceeds will benefit the Nurture Yourself Program, which provides empowerment seminars for women, men and youth in several languages. The YWCA hopes you will Give the Gift of Safety.  Looking to connect with different opportunities in your community?  Try Volunteer Calgary.

4.) Choirs Singing Christmas Carols
Listen to the many choirs singing seasonal favourites at various locations all over the downtown.  Knox United Church will play host to the Calgary Carol Festival from December 3-5th where a variety of Calgary choirs will get together to perform for a worthy cause, The Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank. Admission is a donation to the Food Bank.

5.) Breakfast with Santa
If you missed Santa “dropping in” Downtown on December 1st you can still take the little ones to meet the big guy himself at the Bay Downtown.  He will be back again on Saturday, December 17th for breakfast at the Bay!  It’s best to reserve your spot early as space is limited.  More details can be found here.

6.) Ice Sculptures
Watch huge blocks of ice get carved into intricate masterpieces with chainsaws right before your eyes! One large interactive sculpture will be added daily between Dec 5-9th on Stephen Avenue Walk right in front of the Sport Chek (120 8th Ave SW).

7.) Cocktails with Friends
The weather outside is frightful, but the drinks are so delightful!  There’s something so cozy and fun about hitting up a restaurant or pub with friends for a couple of pre-Christmas cocktails.  Can’t decide where to go?  We’ve got a few ideas for you with “The Twelve Drinks of Christmas.

8.) Discounts & Sales at Your Favourite Stores
For those that love to shop, there are many sales and customer rewards this time of year.  Check the websites of your favorite stores and malls, like The CORE/TD Square/Holt Renfew, before heading there and you might manage to save yourself a few dollars or win one of their special giveaways.

9.)  Warming Up With A Cozy Cup
There is no shortage of coffee shops around these parts.  Whether you get takeaway or decide to stay, we are lucky to have many choices.  deville Luxury Coffee & Pastries boasts that their specialty, the Nutella latte, is “the best latte ever” and I’d be hard pressed to disagree. They also offer hot chocolate and a chocolate latte, both made with Bernard Callebaut chocolate shavings.  Caffe Artigiano, Insomnia Coffee Co, Good Earth Café, Urban Bean Coffee Co and Caffe Rosso also offer up a number of hot drinks, and, of course, we can’t forget the world famous Starbucks’ holiday-themed beverages!

10.) Searching for the Ultimate Comfort Food
When the weather dips below zero it’s time to seek out different ways to warm up your cockles.  Some of my personal favourite comfort foods are the wonton soup at Sukiyaki in the Lancaster Building, the mac n’ cheese at Blink, and the chocolate lava cake at Saltlik. Mmmmm!

The Fiasco Gelato Food Truck has noted the change of season and is now offering up some fresh and hearty soups along with their regular fare.  Their “Souped Up” truck can be found at various locations across the City featuring gourmet artisan soups with delicious flavours like curried zucchini, Thai carrot, lentil lime and chipotle coffee chili. Each bowl is garnished with fresh toppings like basil, olive oil, and honey lime cream and comes complete with a whole wheat mini loaf. The perfect street-side offering from YYCFoodTrucks on a frosty winter day.  I tried the roasted red pepper and it was delicious!

While Downtown, if you happen to capture any of your fun holiday moments please don’t hesitate to enter them in the Downtown Calgary Facebook Holiday photo competition, where you will have a chance to win a Luxury Downtown Getaway prize package, which includes hotel, dining, theatre and a $750 shopping spree.

If you’ve got any other ideas on what to do downtown this holiday season we’d love to hear from you!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Elsie Hui December 6, 2021 at 3:43 am

What a great post! Lovely blog! :) Thanks! I’m in love with Fiasco Gelato and Fiasco Souped Up!


Shannon McNeney December 6, 2021 at 4:32 pm

Thank you so much. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I can’t wait to try Fiasco’s new holiday gelato flavours!!


Kat December 6, 2021 at 7:16 pm

Would love to go skating at Olympic Plaza. Hope the Occupy people leave soon.


Shannon McNeney December 6, 2021 at 8:44 pm

The protesters are still there, but the skating rink is open and ready to go. Just be sure to bring your own skates, as there are no rentals. Cheers.


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